Vagrant Records’ newest addition, the Chicago New Wave band, California Wives is one of those groups you need to listen to numerous times to truly appreciate. It’s not that they’re not instantly catchy or pop enough to hit radio airwaves, it’s just that each listen brings about a new understanding and peels back multiple layers. When I get a new CD, it usually takes a few listens to grab me, but Art History immediately pulls you in with breathy vocals, 80’s-style synth, and killer guitar hooks. You can stream the whole album for free here.
At first, it didn’t demand my full attention at all, and I found myself driving for fifteen minutes before I really listened to any lyrics, or even noticed how similar lead singer/keyboardist Jayson Kramer’s vocals are to those of Billy Corgan or Brian Aubert (Silversun Pickups). It was at that point that I skipped back to track one, and enjoyed Art History for more than cool ambient grooves and throwback melodies.
The beginning of the album is by far the standout portion of the disc. The one-two punch of “Blood Red Youth” and “Tokyo” is the perfect introduction to the Wives, and I think the play-count of just those two songs is already somewhere in the teens on my iPod. The summery jams recount simpler times and carefree synth, with an occasional guitar riff that comes out of nowhere and thoroughly impresses.
A few tunes that follow try to recreate their own formula, yet somehow lack the spark and inspiration, but first single “Purple” truly shows new life and the kind of track that can make a name for the band, which can be tough to do. It perfectly blends their atmospheric vibe with a stutter step drum beat and arena rock guitars. You can download the track for free here.
I look forward to future spins of this up-and-coming band, and while it’s been tough to dissect their lyrics beyond the obvious, there appears to be much more depth beneath the surface of the new four-piece band. Their bright, positive sound, best heard on tracks like “Light Year”and “Photolights,” hints at big things to come, and I expect a dynamic sophomore album that will cement them into the public eye as the next band to watch for years to come.
Try This Track: “Tokyo”